Friday, 16 May 2014

Tom Toby written by Isobel St. Vincent with illustrations by Helen Haywood

Old Tom Toby was a dustman. His fur was ginger and his whiskers always looked as though they needed combing. His baggy grey trousers and russet leather waistcoat were tattered and spotty. And he wasn't very good-tempered. He was grouchy and grumpy to everyone – even to faithful old Tantams.

Tantams was a wooden horse bought from a vintage fair for sixpence. His black mane was very worn and one of his legs had been twice mended, but his eyes were still bright with kindness, and he had a very good heart.

“Dustman! Dustman!” yelled Tom Toby, stumping along with his paws in his pockets white Tantams pulled the cart. “Whoa! You!” miaowed Tom Toby harshly. That’s just like old Toby, Tantams thought to himself. I would have stopped, anyhow. Don’t we always stop at No. 16? It was true. Every Tuesday, when he started out on his rounds, Tom Toby always stopped first at No. 16. Now, as always, he cocked his check cap a little on one side, gave a hasty comb to his whiskers and looked expectantly towards the side door.

In the basement of No. 16 lived the only cat who got more than a surly growl from grouchy Tom Toby. This was Mrs. Maisie, a plump, tabby, widow-cat: housekeeper to the old Dowager Cat at No. 16. Mrs. Maisie liked company. Tom Toby was very partial to milk pudding. And, as friendly Mrs. Maisie was glad to offer a saucer of pudding in exchange for a little chat, the two had struck up a kind of friendship. In an unguarded moment, Mrs. Maisie had even told Tom Toby her “secret.” Up in the attic, unknown to her mistress, Mrs. Maisie kept her three kittens, Jill, Jacqueline and Little Giles.


As a rule, the back door opened as soon as the rumble of the rickety dustcart ceased. This morning, even though Tom Toby coughed accusingly, and loyal Tantams obligingly shook his head to jingle his harness, it remained shut. “Strange!” muttered Tom Toby. For a moment longer he stared hard at the door. Then his offended green eyes swept over the rest of the house. Suddenly, he stiffened – with every bristle aquiver. Leaning out from the railings was a board which said in very large letters:


For a little while Tom Toby just stared and stared, hardly able to believe his eyes. Besides, his tummy felt funny - disappointed of its warm, creamy, milk pudding. "Just like a she-cat," he grumbled to himself at last, "to go off without telling an honest Tom as regards her h'intentions." Still, he might as well empty the dustbin, he supposed. 


With a clang he lifted the lid. "Gr-owl! Nothing much in that! Trust the old Dowager not to throw away anything worth having." Grumbling and growling to himself, Tom Toby pawed over kipper bones, tea leaves and cinders. Then suddenly, under some screwed-up  paper, he saw it. A curiously decorated leather bag!  Holding the bag between his paws, Tom Toby looked at it closely. It was a good bag, made of real leather. Now what could be in it?


With a little click, the clasp came undone. Breathing hard, greedy eyes gleaming, Tom Toby stretched his thin neck and peered into the bag. The next second: “Puff!” A great cloud of golden-yellow  dust rose high in the air, making him stagger back, coughing and sneezing.

Up and up went the dust, swirling like gold mist in the morning sunlight. For a moment, it hovered before the first-floor window. Then a playful little breeze took it and tossed it up like a gay chiffon scarf. But with screwed-up eyes, and great big sneezes nearly shaking him off his feet, Tom Toby was too busy trying to find his grubby hankie to notice. He didn't see the golden dust cloud hover before the open attic window. He didn't hear the series of three atishoos that echoed his own. The yellow dust had reached the three little noses of Jill, Jacqueline and Giles, who were hanging out over the window sill. Eyes screwed up tight, tiny paws waving, they sneezed and sneezed. Then: 


Bump! Wallop! Crash!

 Picking themselves up, the kittens explain their mother left with the removal van. Crying and wailing they begged Tom Toby to help them.


Thinking only of the possible reward he might get from a grateful Mrs. Maisie, the surly cat agreed, and packed them in to the back of the dust-cart. And though nobody noticed it, the cloud of golden dust swirled high in the air above them, and because of it, a series of strange adventures began... 


A magical tale beautifully illustrated by Helen Haywood.



Tom Toby by Isobel St. Vincent Published in 1949.  Hardback book with dust jacket. Please follow this link if you would like further details.  Tom Toby is now sold, thank you for your interest.

Helen R Haywood is a little known artist of the mid-twentieth century. Primarily, a writer and illustrator of children’s books she created a series of books based on the character Peter Tiggywig and friends. Other works included Master Mouse, Animal Playtime and Animal Worktime, which appeared in the Look with Mother series, and Aesop's Fables (Wiki). The Helen Haywood Christmas Book, The Discontented Pool, Dawdles Duckling, and Patsy Mouse.

Thanks for calling in...

40 comments:

  1. Good morning Barbara! What an enchanting little story! I got pulled in with the first illustration of the old and winding European village street. As I read tales as such, I start believing in the characters so quickly! How I wish I could spend an entire day just reading one story after another, where animals rule.

    Enjoy your Friday my friend! Anita

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    1. Hi Anita, I thought this one might appeal to you. The illustrations are such a joy, and the story is delightful.
      I’m having a very productive Friday, and the sun is shining!
      Happy Weekend. Barbara xx

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  2. Such a sweet story and what wonderful illustrations, I especially love the one of the cats wailing.

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    1. Hi Tracy, I like that one too but my favourite is the one where the kittens are falling. They all have something soft to land on, and that makes me smile.
      Thanks for calling in, have a great weekend.

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  3. I had the discontented pool!I could read all these again x

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    1. Hi Paula, lovely to see you here! I wonder where your book is now. Did you keep any of your books? I’ve always wished I had taken better care of mine.
      Are you enjoying this lovely weather? I’ve spent most of the day in the garden, just catching up with emails now. xxx

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  4. Aww , so cute cats , liked the story too :)

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    1. Hi Aunt Mary, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for leaving a comment. Barbara

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  5. Sounds like a series of grand adventures is coming up! It's unfortunate those poor kitties were abandoned by their mother, but luckily Tom Toby discovered them. The illustrations look fabulous though I'm curious why some pages are fully-coloured while the rest are monochrome. What a lovely book, Barbara! (What a coincidence, I also learned about another cat-story just earlier today.)

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    1. Hello Claudine, I don’t think the mother cat intended to abandon her kittens. She was keeping them hidden from the old Dowager Cat, so I don’t suppose she had an opportunity to load them onto the removal van. Maybe she was hoping Tom Toby would look after them and try to find her. Perhaps it turns out to be a love story! I’ve not read the end (yet) so I don’t know what happens, but I feel sure it all ends happily ever after :o)
      I’m intrigued. What was the other cat-story?

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    2. Hey Barbara, the other cat-story is called My Name is Bob (by James Bowen). I haven't found a copy of it at my library yet but I've got a soft spot for street cats. Glad to know the mother didn't intend to abandon the kittens!

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    3. Thanks for that Claudine. My friend Pauline told me the story of Bob, she read the original book and saw interviews on TV, but it somehow passed me by. I had no idea about the picture book. I think I must have been asleep for the last year or so!

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  6. Aww, this is adorable! I really love the cat illustrations.
    You find so many wonderful books x

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    1. Hi Yvonne, I’m lucky because lots of lovely books ‘find me’. I do spend a lot of time searching too, but I also get offers of books for sale. I don’t buy everything but when it’s something special, I can’t resist.
      Enjoy the sunshine! Barbara x

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  7. What a wonderful book! Thank you for sharing the story and images, I'm always thrilled to see what new finds you have. I'm sure someone will snatch this up soon! You are right, what a special book!

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    1. Thanks Diane, it is a special book, and I don’t think it will be long before it has a new home.
      Have a lovely weekend, Barbara.

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  8. What an engaging story! Thanks for sharing it with us. It will make lovely dreams.....

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  9. What a charmingly illustrated tale! I detect touches of Orlando and also The Little Wooden Horse.

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    1. Thanks Sue. I thought of Orlando when I was writing about it, probably because of Tom Toby’s ginger fur but hadn’t given a thought to the little wooden horse. However, now you come to mention it…

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  10. I am intrigued! I am curious to know how the story ends and my heart goes out to those kitties. Glad Tom found them! :) Great illustrations- I am sure this will be snatched up soon. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi stephanie, I'm not sure how it ends but I hope to find out before it sells! Thanks for leaving a comment Barbara

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  11. Those illustrations are absolutely wonderful, I love the first one in particular! Lovely post as always Barbara.

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    1. Thanks Lindsay I really appreciate your kind words. Hope you are enjoying the weekend. Barbara

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  12. Wow. The illustration on this one is astonishing. I could look at these pictures for days!

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    1. Hello Stephanie, please be my guest! They are there to be looked at and enjoyed. Thanks for calling in, Barbara.

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  13. Hi Barbara,

    I have arrived and I've arrived in the same time zone as you. This is unusual for me to be in British Summer Time :)

    Such a wonderfully woven tale. Enchanting, alluring and magical. Indeed, the drawings bring out such a wonderful ambience. I did, however, have to cover Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar's eyes in regards to the cat drawings.

    Gary :)

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    1. Penny I’m so sorry. I will be looking for books more to your liking on my next book buying trip. It’s a good job Gary liked it. :o) Thanks for calling in to see me today, I’m honoured to have a visit from such a modest internet superstar (and Gary, of course!)

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  14. Oh, this just made me laugh Barbara. My favourite is the first illustration, with the cats and my in-head imagination of a fairy tale village! I do love the wailing cats picture too. I am amazed that you keep finding these darling books and in such beautiful condition too.

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    1. That’s just lovely, thanks so much. I love searching them out and having someone to share them with is such a joy.

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  15. What a delightful story and a book full of lovely sketches. Love the sketch of the wailing cats. When I was a kid I used to think that Tabby was the name of the cat then I got a bit confused when in a story the cat was called a moggy and a tabby and wondered how a cat could have 2 names:) anyway I did find out the meaning of both when I looked into a dictionary. I still have not managed to find that particular book. It was about the Red busses of London. Who would have thought that one day I would be travelling in them to work in London!

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    1. Hello Shashi, I’ve just been looking for the Tabby/moggy/London bus story. I had no luck, but am intrigued. Maybe someone reading this might know what it is, if so they might leave a comment. I will also keep looking and let you know if I should discover the name.
      You were obviously destined to work in London – it was written in the stars, or in that book!
      Thanks for your visit, it is always lovely to hear from you. Barbara

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    2. Hi Barbara, Thank you for searching for the story. I read about the London buses some years ago and if I remember correctly sometime in the 60s (put me right if I am wrong) they decided to change the colour of the buses from red to green and there was a lot of opposition understandably. Well the story seems to be related to that time. A runaway red bus who did not want to be painted green. Hiding from the authorities he befriends an east end moggy and they have many adventures together. I hope someone has read the same story somewhere.

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    3. Hi Shashi, I think the red ‘routmaster’ buses came into service around 1956, but I could be wrong. My mum grew up in London, but by the time I was born, she and dad were married and living on a farm in Buckinghamshire. I have a vague recollection of a trip into London to visit my grandad (I think). Some of the journey was by tram, and I can still remember being amazed that the ‘bus’ was connected to a wire in the sky! I was probably about three or four at the time, so everything was exciting, noisy and very, very strange!

      Thanks for the extra info about the book it might help jog someone’s memory. You could also try asking about it at

      http://w1.loganberrybooks.com/stumpthebookseller/

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    4. Thank you Barbara I will try that

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  16. Barbara - this is the best kind of story and the illustrations are beautiful. Thank you so much for your lovely visit to my blog. Always glad to have you stop by. Take care and have a great weekend.

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    1. Thank you Debbie, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting you and will be sure to call in again soon.
      Glad you enjoyed this sweet story. Barbara

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  17. Magical pollen has been making me sneeze too. But who knows maybe the adventures are about to begin!!?

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  18. omg, what an adorable book! I really enjoyed this post. I love stories like this.

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I really appreciate your comment. Thank you!
Barbara xx

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